Unequal Pay Day: European women work ‘for free’ starting from Monday 4 November
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Unequal Pay Day: European women work ‘for free’ starting from Monday 4 November

In Europe, female employees earn, on average, 16% less than their male colleagues. Credit: Pxhere

On Monday 4 November 2019, it is European Unequal Pay Day, a symbolic day to denounce the still existing pay gap between men and women.

In Europe, female employees earn, on average, 16% less than their male colleagues, meaning that they work ‘for free’ during the last 16% of the year, starting from 4 November. This day is not to be confused with Equal Pay Day, the day until which women have to work in the next year to close their wage gap of the past year. In 2019, it fell on 14 March.

To address the pay gap between men and women, the women’s movement ‘zij-kant’ and PES Women (Party of European Socialists) are starting an ‘out of office’ campaign. “Every female employee can link an automatic message to her mailbox saying that she will no longer be available until the end of the year,” said Vera Claes of the women’s movement ‘zij-kant’, reports VRT NWS. Urgent questions can be sent to male colleagues, as they are still paid.

“There are several reasons why there is still a pay gap,” added Claes. “The main cause is part-time work. Many more women than men work part-time. In Belgium, 44% of all female employees work part-time, compared to only 11% of male ones. That is a huge difference,” she added.

“However, part-time work is not the only explanation. We also see that women take more care leave,” said Claes. “This results in remarkably more women staying at home for a longer period of time to care for a sick family member, for example. Also, many more women than men opt for parental leave,” she added.

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With a pay gap of 20%, Belgium scores worse than the European average. “It is a mixed conclusion,” said Claes. “Belgium is a good student in terms of equality if you look at the hourly wages. But the monthly and annual wages between men and women still show big differences. This is mainly because most women have jobs in care sectors that are paid less. Another factor is the glass ceiling. Women are still less likely to move to leadership roles,” she added.

The organisation is encouraging people to send a postcard asking for action to close the gender pay gap to Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, or share the e-postcard online.

To close the gap, the organisation also proposes a collective reduction of working hours to a 30-hour week, which would allow both women and men to develop their careers and make time for family responsibilities, reports De Morgen.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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